Fellowship is both the way and the goal
Training in the fellowship of the believers for our eternal fellowship with God: this is how the Chief Apostle understands salvation in Christ and our preparation for it. What this means in practice he explained in his annual interview 2021.
District Apostle Meeting, Pentecost service, and now a newly published interview: this topic is really important to Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider. How does the New Apostolic Church understand salvation? And what are the implications of this for our attendance of the divine services?
And no, this is not about a Church leader who is worried about attendance figures. The Chief Apostle not only made this clear in his most recent sermons, but already shortly before he took office in 2013: “As Apostles and ambassadors in Christ’s stead, we are not fighting for the survival of the New Apostolic Church but for the Lord Jesus Christ.” And the main task he sees in this is preparing the bridal congregation for the return of Christ. .
Not an escape, but completion
“Forever and in perfect harmony with God” and “continually discovering new aspects of the glory of God”: this is how the Chief Apostle outlined the concept of ultimate salvation of the soul, as it emerges from the statements of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
This prospect encompasses some very different aspects: liberation, deliverance, preservation, forgiveness, victory, and even redemption are mentioned in the interview. But focusing on individual aspects only harbours certain risks: believers might be tempted to shut themselves off from the outside world. Or missionary efforts might no longer be motivated solely by love for our neighbour, but as a means to an end to escape this world as quickly as possible.
“New Apostolic Christians”, this is how the Chief Apostle formulates our concept of salvation, “do not necessarily see their earthly existence as a vale of tears which they are condemned to walk. What they want is to live with God eternally. Their life on earth is a time of grace that God grants them in order that they may prepare themselves for eternal fellowship with Him in both joy and suffering.”
Fellowship with God
This preparation happens individually to begin with: “We must believe in Jesus Christ, be born again out of water and the Spirit, and receive the body and blood of Christ.” These prerequisites are necessary, but not sufficient. And this is where our participation in the divine services comes in and plays the central role.
Because “by participating in the divine services, believers first of all strengthen their personal relationship with God”. Besides, “the sermon inspired by the Holy Spirit strengthens their faith in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. When praying the Lord’s Prayer, they express their desire to be in fellowship with God.” And finally: “The absolution frees them from the burden of their sins. Partaking worthily in Holy Communion strengthens their hope and nourishes the divine life they have received in the rebirth.”
Fellowship with other people
Participating in the divine services also prepares the believers to live in the community of other people in the kingdom of God. Because also in the congregation believers come together with others whom they have not sought out for their encounter with God. “Their desire to praise and worship God, their need to commune with God and be near Him, is so strong that they find themselves coming together with people with whom they would otherwise never have associated.”
The power of the gospel is evident in the congregation in a special way: “God uses the same message in order to strengthen the believers, all of whom find themselves in completely different situations.” In addition to this: “By praying the words aloud together: ‘Forgive us our debts,’ the believers publicly profess that they are all—without exception—in need of grace.” And finally, since no one is perfect, congregational life enables the believers to learn to forgive one another, reconcile with one another, and learn to overcome their differences.
“I see it as my responsibility to solemnly remind all New Apostolic believers that regular participation in divine service is an essential component of our preparation for the return of Jesus,” Chief Apostle Schneider emphasises. “For these reasons in and of themselves already, I invite all New Apostolic members to hold fast to the practice of attending the divine services in person—as soon as it becomes possible for us to do so again.”
And he does not forget those who have to stay home for reasons of illness or age. “They can rest assured that God will provide for them. We pray for one another!”
Photo: Oliver Rütten